Over the past 25 years, the welterweight division has dominated boxing.
Big-name boxers like Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Julio Cesar Chavez helped lift the division into prominence and there has been no looking back, as the current class remains loaded with talent.
A new a wave of big fights appears to be looming for the second half of 2017 after Errol Spence’s impressive victory over Kell Brook on Saturday and with Manny Pacquiao set to fight in early July. However, Keith Thurman, who owns the WBC and WBA (super) titles, will be inactive for at least six months due to an elbow injury.
Any major prize fight is likely to go through Premier Boxing Champions’ Al Haymon or Top Rank promoter Bob Arum. The two sides were engaged in a $100 million legal battle that ended in 2016 and there appears to be too much money on the table for them to avoid negotiations. Haymon’s biggest client, Floyd Mayweather, may or may not be done fighting, and while many felt his fight with Pacquiao was dull, a rematch would still be a windfall for all parties.
Most of the top welterweights belong to Premier Boxing Champions, such as Thurman, Spence, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, Lamont Peterson among many others, while Top Rank boasts Pacquiao, Terence Crawford, Timothy Bradley and Jessie Vargas. Meanwhile, the likes of Lucas Matthysse, Adrien Broner, Adrian Granados, Chris Algieri and Brandon Rios can raise their profiles by upsetting some of boxing’s best.
There are several boxers to break down in this loaded division and no clear answers as to where things stand in the second half of 2017 and early 2018.
Andre Berto (31-5, 24 KOs)
The loss to Porter might have been the beginning of the end for Berto. He remains a notable fighter after his bouts with Mayweather, Josesito Lopez and Robert Guerrero. His enthralling battle with Victor Ortiz in 2011 has endeared him to many boxing fans, but some might feel he is fading fast at the age of 33. The Florida native seems fated to face the likes of promising boxers seeking a stepping-stone opponent before a title shot.
Timothy Bradley (33-2-1, 13 KOs)
After losing to Pacquiao in April 2016, he inked a two-year contract with Top Rank but has yet to return to the ring. At 33 years old, Bradley may not be in any rush to face a legitimate power puncher and even talked retirement in January. The Southern California native might only have one or two more fights left in him. He remains a highly respected boxer that immediately boosts the profile of his opponent.
Kell Brook (36-2, 25 KOs)
There was a positive takeaway from his loss to Spence. Before faltering in the 10th and 11th rounds, Brook was actually leading on many scorecards. Extended time away from the ring to help his eye heal, along with some tune-up fights in 2018, could be enough to reestablish his status as a top boxer. However, after the loss to Golovkin at 160 pounds and his defeat to Spence, it might be time for Brook to step away from the welterweight division. He may consider fighting less demanding opponents at 154 pounds or at catchweight.
Terence Crawford (31-0, 22 KOs)
Among boxing’s best pound-for-pound fighters, Crawford may have to pause on jumping weight classes for a megafight at 147 pounds. Instead, he can keep his eye on unifying the junior welterweight division by fighting Julius Indongo. But what happens after that? It might be years before a top welterweight seriously considers fighting Crawford. He’s simply too good.
Danny Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs)
After suffering the first loss of his career in March to Thurman, there is plenty of interest in who Garcia fights next. A solid boxer with enough name recognition to garner high-profile bouts, the 29-year-old might be willing to accept an underdog role against someone like Spence. That seems unlikely, though, and a more realistic route might be a rematch with Lamont Peterson, or perhaps a fight with Vargas or Berto.
Amir Khan (31-4, 19 KOs)
While he was never truly an elite welterweight, Khan nonetheless remains a well-known boxer who showed a willingness to take on tough opponents. After his brutal loss to Canelo Alvarez, it will be a long road back to a major prizefight. Should he win consecutive fights, Khan can perhaps earn another title fight by late 2019. Khan has talked about fighting Kell Brook in the summer of 2018, but even that might be too ambitious. His best bet might be to move up to 154 pounds.
Floyd Mayweather (49-0, 26 KOs)
He cemented his legacy by 2015 after beating some of boxing’s best and really has nothing else to prove. By entertaining a fight with Conor McGregor, it seems safe to assume the semi-retired legend is either buying himself some time for a megafight rematch with Pacquiao or is content in ending his career with a lucrative sideshow. Mayweather, 40, is probably in good enough shape to earn that coveted 50th win but it would be surprising if he put his stellar record on the line against a young and hungry contender.
Manny Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs)
On July 2, the Filipino icon will fight none other than… Jeff Horn? Pacquiao’s off-the-radar opponent shouldn’t be much of a challenge, prompting understandable debate about Pacquiao’s future. At 38 years old, he may have more interest in the Philippines’ Senate than boxing. However, there might be an opportunity for one or two more big fights before the WBO champion hangs up his gloves for good. Pacquiao would likely be an underdog against top young welterweights, so a potential bout against current lightweight champion Mikey Garcia might be a safe bet.
Lamont Peterson (35-3-1, 17 KOs)
What does the future hold for the WBA (regular) welterweight title holder? Peterson is by no measure a superstar, ranking No. 8 on ESPN’s list of welterweights and No. 10 on Ring Magazine’s list. The 33-year-old is still a solid boxer, as evident by his competitive 2015 fight with Garcia. Peterson is coming off back-to-back wins against Felix Diaz and David Avanesyan, but his only notable victory was a split decision over Khan in 2011.
Shawn Porter (27-2-1, 17 KOs)
The division’s most underrated fighter, Porter is coming off a one-sided win over Berto. He’s a highly active and entertaining boxer who gave both Thurman and Brook a legitimate test. Perhaps Garcia, Vargas, or Sadam Ali should be on Porter’s radar later this year before gets another crack at a title fight. Should the 29-year-old earn a couple more wins against strong competition, he can probably get a mandatory title shot before 2019.
Errol Spence (22-0, 19 KOs)
Spence finally earned his signature win. Among the most talented boxers in any division, he may have limited immediate options after going all the way to Sheffield, England, and beating Brook to capture the IBF crown. The 27-year-old will have to wait until at least 2018 to fight Thurman and it wouldn’t be surprising if Pacquiao successfully ducks him before retirement. Perhaps Spence should consider taking on a veteran boxer to further strengthen his name recognition while he awaits a unification bout.
Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs)
The WBC and WBA (super) champion is out for at least six months after elbow surgery in May, throwing a wrench in plans for a major title fight in 2017. The 28-year-old defeated two excellent fighters, though both wins weren’t all that convincing. Victories over Garcia and Porter strengthened Thurman’s credibility, but a win over Spence or Crawford would essentially silence all detractors. It’s not a given Thurman will fight either boxer in 2018. It might make sense to face titleholder Peterson before taking on someone of Spence’s stature.
Jessie Vargas (27-2, 10 KOs)
After a convincing loss to Pacquiao in November 2016, Vargas has kept a low profile. He’s only 28 and his convincing win over Ali in March 2016, as well as the credibility he earned by fighting Pacquiao, will keep him in the mix among the top welterweights for at least another year. He’s an underrated fighter and seems like an ideal opponent for someone like Garcia or Porter.
Source: Bobby IIich| International Business Times